Society of the Faith

The Society of the Faith is a Church of England charity founded in 1905. Its objects are to bring together Christians in communion with the See of Canterbury for mutual assistance and to support and further charitable undertakings, particularly those which popularise the Catholic faith. It is registered with the Charity Commission.

History

The Society was founded in August 1905 by two brothers, the Revd Canon J A Douglas, then Vicar of St Luke, Camberwell, and the Revd C E Douglas, both notable figures in the Anglican Catholic revival. The object of the Society was to create –

"an Association of Christians in communion with the See of Canterbury for mutual assistance in the work of Christ's Church and for the furtherance of such charitable undertakings as may from time to time be decided upon, more especially for the popularisation of the Catholic faith."

The Douglas brothers also intended to create a collegiate institution with resident and non-resident members, but this never came into being.

In 1926 the Society became a charitable limited company. In 1935, it took on the lease of Faith House in Westminster, which provided a base for the activities of the Society, in particular a bookshop for the Faith Press and workspaces for Faith-Craft (see below). Faith House had been built as a church institute for the parish of St John the Evangelist, Westminster. The parish church of this parish was bombed in World War II and is now a concert hall.

Faith Press

The Revd C E Douglas had the idea of encouraging attendance at Sunday School by a system of stamp collecting. The stamps were originally printed in London. Douglas moved the enterprise to Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire where a local printer, Henry Rutherford, began producing the stamps. This was so successful that in July 1907 the Faith Press was founded, at first in a converted cow-shed behind a pub, but from 1910 in a converted brewery in Leighton Buzzard.

In 1909 the Manchester based "Church Printing Company" was taken over by the Society and run as the Manchester Faith Press. It closed in 1921 as a consequence of the post-first World War depression.

The main company flourished, and became a limited liability company in 1913. As well as the "stamps" it published religious books, various periodicals and from 1917 church music. From 1915 a parish insert called The Symbol was printed, to provide Anglo-Catholic priests with good material for sermons and other instructions.

Rising costs and reduced demand led to Faith Press being closed down in 1973.

Faith-Craft Studio

In 1916 the Society began to make vestments to order. The business grew and in 1921 Faith-Craft was founded. From 1938 a workshop for joinery and statue work was opened in St Albans, Hertfordshire, with vestments and stained-glass being produced at Faith House. In 1955 Faith-Craft works moved to new premises in the Abbey Mill in St Albans. The post-war restoration and furnishing of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside from 1956 to 1964 was Faith-Craft's largest single commisison; everthing was made by Faith-Craft including the stained glass windows, designed by John Hayward. By the end of the 1960s changes in fashions in church furnishings had changed, reducing demand and the costs of running the businesses were rising. As a result in 1973 the Society closed down Faith-Craft.

The Society and Eastern Churches

The Douglas brothers had travelled in the Near East and were ahead of their time in having an interest in the Eastern Churches. As a result the Society had a role in the foundation of the Catholic Literature Association and the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches' Association. It also supported the Nikaean Club and provided grants for visiting Orthodox theological students.

Difficult times

Charles Douglas died in 1955 and his brother John in 1956. For the next twenty years, the Faith Press and Faith-Craft Studio continued to produce notable works. Faith Press published the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book as well as important texts such as Peter Anson’s ‘Building up the Waste Places’. Faith-Craft, using distinguished designers such as John Hayward and Francis Stephens, created high quality stained glass and ornaments. But costs were rising and tastes were changing. In the late 1960’s, Watts and Company moved into Faith House to take the place of Faith-Craft. In the 1970’s, the Society, led by its Secretary, Ivor Bulmer-Thomas, invited the Church Union into Faith House to run the bookshop. Faith House continued to be an iconic building but the cost of running it was becoming a serious burden for the Society.

The Society today

By the late 1990’s, the board of trustees knew that it needed to take urgent action to make Faith House self-financing and to provide income to pursue its objects. It obtained permission from the freeholders to let out the top floor for profit and, although its main tenant was a charity serving young people in developing countries, the income enabled the Society to restore its finances. With Watts and Company now thriving in the basement, the Society found itself in the position of that unusual phenomenon, a benevolent landlord, fostering good relations with its tenants. The SPCK ran the bookshop (now closed) from 2003-2008.

The main activities of the Society are now -

* making reasonably-priced accommodation available in Faith House for organisations and companies which promote the Christian faith and the Anglican Communion, as well as for other charitable organisations;
*promoting the revival and reissue of Faith Press publications and sponsoring new publications, including the Archbishop of York’s Advent Book;
* conserving an archive of Faith-craft drawings and Faith Press publications;
* administering the Hoare Trust, which grant-aids the conservation and provision of ecclesiastical needlework :
* administering the Liddon fund, a restricted fund which finances the annual Liddon Lecture and grants to young people for advanced theological study.

The Society is administered by trustees, known as the Court of Fellows, assisted by the Secretary and Treasurer.

Illustrations


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